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Andrea Santiago

Job Search Tips for Unemployed Veterans

By November 12, 2012

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Job Search Tips for Former Military Personnel and Unemployed War Veterans

On Veterans Day, we honor and remember Americans who've served the country and represented our nation with wartime service. Meanwhile, many survivors of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq quietly struggle to find their way in civilian life and make ends meet.

The good news is that the unemployment rate has decreased for war veterans overall. As of October 2012, the unemployment rate among U.S. veterans is 6.3 percent, down from 7.7 percent this time last year. However, the unemployment rate for female veterans is 9.5 percent. These rates include all veterans over the age of 18.

If only Gulf War-era veterans are included in the analysis, the unemployment rate increases to 10 percent overall (down from 12.1 percent this time last year), and 15.5 percent for women! These unemployment rates are much higher than the current national unemployment rate of 7.9 percent, and the healthcare unemployment rate of 5.5 percent.

Why are there so many unemployed vets in the country? The recent recession and high unemployment rate among the general population haven't helped the situation for former military members. Additionally, one CBS news report from last year cited a lack of understanding among employers as to the hard and soft skills that former military personnel can bring to a job, because so few employers in today's workforce have served in the military.

Therefore, while veterans cannot change their circumstances or the market, they can do a few things to help market themselves more successfully to employers.

Explain your skills and experience in layman's terms. On your resume (or CV) and in your interview, be prepared to communicate your skills in a way that employers can understand. The CBS report notes that most employers and interviewers have never served in the military. Therefore, try to replace military jargon and terminology with very basic terms that will help civilians understand exactly what your role entailed. Be sure to include hard and soft skills. Additionally, military rank, titles, and awards often do not translate clearly to civilian work environments, so be sure to include explicit details about what the awards and titles mean, and exactly why or how you earned them.

Network with both military and non-military professionals - Former military personnel often form a bond, and therefore, your network of military personnel may help you reach new connections or identify suitable opportunities. In addition, be sure to build your network of non-military personnel who know your skills and qualifications and can help communicate that to their contacts and perhaps recommend you for any fitting openings. If you don't think you can connect with enough people "in real life", don't forget about online networking! You can expand your network of professional contacts online with professional sites such as LinkedIn, where there are groups and communities of recruiters, military personnel, hiring managers, and more.

Join professional associations - one of the key contributors to the CBS report on veteran unemployment was a former military staffer, Tom Tarantino, who now leads the IAVA - Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. His organization is working to help veterans in their post-service endeavors in a variety of ways, including lobbying the government, increasing awareness, and providing resources to vets. In addition to these types of organizations, be sure to join the professional associations in your career area of interest. Professional associations often provide networking opportunities, education, and job opportunities to members.

Utilize military outplacement services whenever possible. In addition to the outplacement services offered by some branches of the military, some private recruiting firms have divisions that specialize in working with professionals who have served in the military. One such firm is the Lucas Group, but there are many others.

Target growing industries and careers if you are able. In my experience, many military personnel who have training and certifications in the medical field seem to make a more smooth transition into civilian medical jobs, such as physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals. The unemployment rate in the healthcare field is only five percent currently. If you are not trained in any clinical capacity, you could also try to target non-clinical medical industry roles that are also experiencing high demand. Or you could try to apply for jobs in another one of the other growing fields such as information technology.

Military support careers: Another employment option may be available in a civilian organization that supports the military branches. For example, MEDCOM, a civilian corps which supports Army medical operations, is hiring thousands of medical professionals.

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